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Around the Kitchen Table: What is clutter anyway?

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Every so often I get the overwhelming urge to organize and de-clutter my house. A few months ago, however, something happened that changed my outlook on not only my annual organizing frenzy but my perception of “clutter.” I was visiting a friend who had lost her husband and she was in the process of sorting through not only his belongings, but his mother’s as well. Her husband hadn’t wanted the job of going through his mothers’ things, so he kept procrastinating. Now Carol was left with the job.

As she surveyed the mountain of stuff, she threw her hands up in exasperation and said, “What is clutter anyway?! What looks like clutter to me may not be to someone else. Where do I start?” Good question.

I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist, but I wouldn’t say I’m a cozy type either. I guess I fall somewhere in between. Maintaining any type of “look” requires too much maintenance for realistic daily living. I admire people who can keep their house picture-perfect, but I don’t want the stress. Taking an honest assessment of what you want from your home and what makes you comfortable is the most important thing.

Once, I asked a friend if she would give me honest feedback on my home. Did she think I had a style and could she give me some suggestions? (Make sure you really like this friend and you really want to know the truth.)

My friend looked at me, then around my sizable living space, then back at me. She shook her head and said, “You have the weirdest house I’ve ever seen, but I love it! It’s interesting and every time I come over I see something I didn’t see before. And it’s, well, it’s YOU!”

I burst out laughing. “That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said about my home! Thank you!” I meant it. I wasn’t offended that she thought it was weird, because she’s right. Nothing matches. Most of my furniture is old, some antiques. I have framed railroad maps and old tickets, pen and inks of unicorns and horses, black and white photographs from a century ago, my late brother’s watercolor paintings, old Coca-Cola signs, botanical prints – and that’s just the walls!

I have a peach couch, pea green club chairs, an upright piano as old as Methuselah, bowls of nature finds (acorns, cones, feathers, moss, etc.), stacks of old board games and puzzles, two saddles on a rack, family photos and the list goes on.

My friend helped me see my space with a new eye and I appreciated the revelation. If you want a certain look, go for it, but sometimes just looking at things with fresh eyes can help. Maybe rearranging things or paring down some will help you achieve what you want.

Back to Carol and her dilemma – I was able to help her make a start on her project and even though it will take her some time, she has made progress. I believe she will finish this year.

Her question is foremost in my mind as I face 2023 and the prospect of making my space more comfortable.  When I look at my rooms, I ask, “What is MY clutter?” and go from there.

Your living space affects your mood, your level of stress and even how you feel about yourself. If it’s that important, taking a little time to make a happier, more inviting space is definitely worth it.

Treat yourself to this easy yummy, low-cal dessert after you finish your project.

Berry Bliss

¼ cup blueberries

¼ cup sliced strawberries

½ cup crushed bran flake cereal

½ cup low-fat Greek vanilla yogurt

1/8 cup finely chopped walnuts

Layer ingredients in a parfait glass or tall tumbler. Enjoy!

by Tamra Bolton

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